Fall is my favourite season to hike, and this year I decided to spoil myself a bit and I spent a few days enjoying the fall colours in the beautiful Adirondack Mountains, in upstate New York.
Did you know that the Adirondacks were the largest publicly protected area in the contiguous United States? This diverse mountain landscape has thousands of kilometres of trails, thousands of lakes and rivers and many, many mountains. It is a real paradise for hikers looking for challenges.
And since I do enjoy a good hiking challenge, I decided to drive first towards Saint Regis Mountain, located in Paul Smiths, because it is a mountain that is both part of the Fire Towers Challenge (which involves hiking to the fire towers of the Adirondacks and the Catskills) and the Saranac Lake 6er challenge, which I was keen to complete.
The trail can be accessed via Keese Mill Road, where there is a small parking lot. After parking my car, I walked a few yards along a dirt road, signed the DEC register, and set off on the trail.
What a pleasure it was to be in a forest when the fall colours are at their peak! The forest floor was covered with a layer of fallen leaves, the air smelled fresh and good and the contrast between the blue sky and the orange and yellow leaves was beautiful!
And the trail gave me plenty of time to enjoy the moment. In fact, for almost three kilometres, I didn’t really feel like I was hiking towards a mountain summit. The trail had a few climbs and descents, but it felt more like it was gently winding through the forest rather than bringing me to a peak.
After taking me across a stream on a small bridge, the trail seemed to climb a little more steadily. Nothing too difficult at first, then the climb became a bit more sustained. There was a bit of mud in spots, but the big rocks helped keep my feet dry.
The climb was steeper on the last metres of the trail. As I got higher, the trees seemed more and more stripped of their leaves. I could see here and there between the branches the landscape, but it was really when I reached the rocky summit of the mountain that I could realize the full extent of it. Wow!
This is my first summit in the Adirondacks and the view completely blew my mind! At 876 metres (2,874 feet) above sea level, St. Regis Mountain is far from being the highest mountain in the region. But it does offer a 360-degree view on the surrounding area, allowing you to see the lakes and ponds of the St. Regis Canoe Area, as well as the High Peaks farther south.
The fire tower at the top dates from 1918. It was active until 1990, before being closed and abandoned. In 2015, an association decided to start restoration work there and it is now possible to climb it. If the view had been impressive at the top of the mountain, you can imagine how magnificent it was from the top of the tower.
As I started my hike quite early in the morning, I had the chance to enjoy the summit all by myself. I took a break there to catch my breath and rest my legs, then I quietly started the descent, by the same trail by which I arrived.
I met several hikers on the way back (even though I was there on a week day), proof that this is quite a popular hike.
I finally reached my car after hiking a total of 11.6 kilometres (7.2 miles) with an elevation gain of 513 metres (1,683 feet), according to Strava. Although it’s not a short hike, I didn’t find it particularly difficult. I had reached my first peak of the Saranac Lake 6er challenge, and it really motivated me for the next ones!